What struck Deb the third time through, what she should have noticed the first, was that the man had no legs. His torso ended just below the waist, an abrupt line from hipbone to hipbone. She leaned closer and saw that he had no arms either. His wings, completely different from her own, from any she’d ever seen, were attached at the shoulder sockets where arms should have been. He had no feathers, just swaths of skin like a bat. When he flapped, pulling in with his enormous chest, she saw the blunt logic of his movements. It was not the gentle and delicate rise she’d imagined for herself, but a drive that wrenched man from earth, and Deb knew instantly, if it were going to work, this is how it would have to be.
A pair of arms circled her from behind. It was Carl.
“You look gorgeous,” he said, softly, into her ear. She wanted to turn to him, bury her face in his neck and soak up his smell, but he held her in such a way that she had to face the film for another loop, watching as the misshapen man lifted off once again.
Carl had taken care of her at the party, fixing her drinks, and staying with her the whole night. And she’d clung to him. He didn’t bother introducing her to his friends — as if none of them even mattered. He talked only to her, for hours, first on the couch, and then on the balcony, twelve stories above the half-empty parking lot. Maybe it was the drinks, or the thin night air, but Deb was giddy with his nearness, finding a hundred opportunities to touch him, on his arm, his chest, his back. And he did the same, letting his hand linger in new and exciting ways on her mantle, her hip, her neck. It felt invigorating to be outside and Deb realized she hadn’t left the hotel in days. In one impulsive move, she leaned in to kiss him.
Carl’s mouth was smaller than she’d imagined, his tongue thick. He seemed to have a normal number of teeth, a proportional face and jaw, and she found herself wondering how it all fit together. The sensation of kissing Carl, though not unpleasant, was dulled by too many vodka Lifts, and Deb soon pulled away, struck by a new idea.